LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–On a show of ballots, Southern Baptist Convention messengers June 23 authorized their president, Johnny Hunt, to appoint a task force to study how Southern Baptists can work “more faithfully and effectively together in serving Christ through the Great Commission.”
The motion, presented earlier in the day by R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, survived an effort to amend it before being adopted by an overwhelming margin.
The opportunities for advancing the Gospel are unprecedented and many Southern Baptists are looking for a visionary missions challenge, Mohler said as he spoke on behalf of his motion.
“We are looking at an unprecedented set of opportunities before us, especially when it comes to reaching the world for the Lord Jesus Christ. We sense from our churches an incredible desire to be even more active in the task of getting the Gospel to the ends of the earth,” Mohler said. “It’s the task of this generation to be responsive both to the opportunities that are before us and to the conviction and commitment of our churches. We need to set that passion loose and in this generation Southern Baptists will either move greatly ahead or we will fall more tragically behind.”
Although some had expressed concerns before the annual meeting that the task force proposal was targeted at reorganizing convention structures, Mohler asserted, “This is not an effort to reinvent the Southern Baptist Convention.”
There is “absolutely no reason to fear asking that question [about how to be more effective in obeying the Great Commission], Mohler said. “We have every reason to feel an excitement and an enthusiasm about asking in every single generation, indeed in every season, is there more we can do and can we do even more if we are more faithful in the task of deploying the conviction and the passion of Southern Baptists in service to the Great Commission of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Noting that the Southern Baptist Convention was organized in 1845 “for the solitary purpose of getting the Gospel to ends of the earth,” Mohler declared: “There is a generation ready and waiting to be challenged to do something great for the cause of Christ. I say we take this opportunity.”
One messenger who spoke against the motion asserted that the decline in baptisms reported by Southern Baptist churches could be attributed to a rise in Calvinist convictions. Another messenger argued that it didn’t require a task force to discover the Bible’s call to witness and minister to the lost. A third messenger offered a substitute motion to have the SBC’s North American and International Mission boards conduct the study themselves, rather than incurring the expense of creating a task force.
The effort to redirect the proposal failed, however, and a final messenger, who identified himself as “a young Southern Baptist,” called on messengers to vote for the proposal “for the sake of the younger generation and the future of the Southern Baptist Convention and the Great Commission resurgence.”
The motion calls for the task force to study the issues and bring their report, along with any recommendations, to the 2010 SBC annual meeting, June 15-16 in Orlando, Fla. SBC President Johnny Hunt said in a news conference earlier in the day that if the motion passed, he intended to name task force members the following day.
Mark Kelly is an assistant editor with Baptist Press.